Assistant Professor, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
Department of Veterinary Clinical and Diagnostic Sciences
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
HRIC G370, 3280 Hospital Drive NW
Physiology of early equine pregnancy and the epigenetic effects of assisted reproductive techniques
Primary Area of Research:
One of my research interests is to use the horse as a model to study the epigenetic consequences of assisted reproductive techniques.
In the horse, ICSI and SCNT are used, while in human IVF and ICSI are applied. Especially pregnancies arising from SCNT in the horse are characterized not only by low efficacy but also by neonates displaying major adaptation complications in the immediate postnatal period. In cattle, offspring arising from SCNT pregnancies are often suffering from the so called Large Offspring Syndrome and altered epigenetic traits have been identified as the underlying cause. Children conceived by ART are at an increased risk of having imprinting disorders such a Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome and Angelman syndrome. While it is known that the use of ART leads to alteration of epigenetic traits, such as aberrant methylation patterns, the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. I will be using the innovative approach of inter-species hybrids between horse and donkey to study the epigenetic effects of ART, namely the alteration of imprinted genes.
The physiology of early pregnancy in the mare and the causes of reproductive failure have been an area of interest of mine over the past six years. To this point a thorough understanding of the causes of early embryonic loss are missing partly because we have an incomplete understanding of the physiology of early pregnancy in the mare. During the second week of pregnancy an event termed “maternal recognition of pregnancy” takes place during which the conceptus secrets a “maternal recognition of pregnancy factor”. Appropriate secretion of this maternal recognition of pregnancy factor is essential for maintenance of pregnancy and the nature of this factor varies with species. The horse is one of the few domestic large animal species where the nature of this factor is elusive. I have developed a unique equine specific gene expression microarray that has been used successfully to identify new aspects of embryo-maternal interaction in the mare. Particular areas of focus will be the "The role of fibrinogen secreted by pre-implantation equine embryos" and "The use of RNA interference generate aromatase and fibrinogen knockdown embryos".